NORMAL, Ill. — After losing their four game losing streak in their last outing, the Illinois State Redbirds got some redemption on Sunday in their 72-68 win over the Missouri State Bears.
The Redbirds fell to the Drake Bulldogs in their last outing, bringing an end to their four game win streak. At home on Sunday, Illinois State was looking to start a new streak at the expense of Missouri State, who came into the day riding their own four game winning streak. Thanks to 23 points apiece from Phil Fayne and Milik Yarbrough, the Redbirds bounced back and held down their home court.
Missouri State gave the Redbirds a fight in the second half. After trailing by as many as 10 points in the second frame, the Bears managed to take a three-point lead of their own with under four minutes to play. Illinois State wouldn’t allow the Bears to pull ahead any further, and they retook the lead in the closing minutes to secure the 72-68 win on their home floor.
Sunday marked the first loss in conference play for the Bears.
The trio of Alize Johnson, Ronnie Rousseau III, and J.T. Miller scored 16 points apiece for the Bears. Johnson pulled down 12 rebounds, while Miller added 11 rebounds for double-double performances.
It was the fifth straight game with a double-double for Johnson, who now has 11 on the season.
Yarbrough and Fayne were the only two players to score in double-figures for the Redbirds. Keyshawn Evans added eight points and four assists, while forward Taylor Bruninga came off the bench to record six points, three rebounds, and three assists in the win.
A layup from Yarbrough with 26 seconds left in the first half sent Illinois State into the locker room with a nine point advantage, at 38-29. The teams traded baskets to open the second half before Fayne completed a three-point play to give the Redbirds a 43-33 lead, which was their biggest of the afternoon.
While the Redbirds would hold a lead for the majority of the second half, credit the Bears for continuing to fight. With 4:44 to play in the game, Miller got a second-chance basket to fall, giving the Bears a slim 57-56 lead. He followed that up with a pair of free throws under a minute later to push the lead for Missouri State to three.
Evans responded with a pair of free throws to keep Illinois State within a single basket. Then, with under two minutes left, Fayne threw down a pair of dunks within 30 seconds of one another to push the home side ahead for good, at 64-62.
Still, Illinois State made themselves sweat out the win, as they only hit one of two free throws on three different occasions in the final eight seconds. Fortunately for the Redbirds, the Bears were unable to capitalize, and Illinois State held on for the 72-68 victory.
The loss was just the second in the past 13 games for Missouri State (13-4, 3-1). It also knocked the Bears out of a first-place tie in the Missouri Valley Conference. Missouri State will look to get back in the win column on Wednesday night when they head on the road to take on the Evansville Purple Aces.
Sunday was a nice bounce-back performance for Illinois State (9-7, 3-1), who have now won four of their last five outings. The Redbirds will go for their second straight win on Wednesday when they host the Loyola (IL) Ramblers.
– T. Bennett